Little Rock is home to a thriving New South culture that offers a vibrant nightlife, big-time entertainment, world-class attractions and a booming dining scene. The fact that Arkansas’ capital city is one of the state’s top vacation and convention locations and among America’s most affordable cities means you can have fun and keep your money in your pocket while you do it.
If you enjoy fishing, the “Rock City” provides other reasons to visit as well. Within the city limits, and just a short drive away, are some of the country’s best destinations for catching a wide variety of sportfish, including everything from trout and striped bass to largemouths, catfish, crappie, bream and more.
Next time you’re in town, these are some of the places you might want to wet a hook.
Metro Area Lakes and the Arkansas River
The greater Little Rock area is brimming with waters where you can sit under a shade tree, on a pier or in a boat to enjoy fishing for largemouth bass, bluegills, catfish, crappie, hybrid stripers and, in some locations during winter, rainbow trout.
Several metropolitan-area parks have stocked ponds or Arkansas River access, including War Memorial, MacArthur, Ottenheimer, Hindman, Boyle, Otter Creek, Burns, Kiwanis, Murray, Riverfront and Cook’s Landing. Head toward Jacksonville on U.S. Highway 67/167 to wet a line at Cabot Community Pond, Cherrywood Lake, Paradise Lake and Lake Pickthorne.
The Arkansas River runs right through the middle of town, with excellent fishing for big largemouth bass, monster catfish, white bass, saugers (in winter) and more. Off Highway 10 to the west, you’ll find good fishing in the Environmental Education Pond in Pinnacle Mountain State Park and beautiful Lake Maumelle, a favorite spot for sailing enthusiasts. (Info: Arkansas Game & Fish Commission)
Want to enjoy a relaxing canoe trip on a scenic river? Try the Saline River at Benton, just a 15-minute drive from Little Rock on Interstate 30. Here you’ll find beautiful vistas, plenty of gravel bars for picnics and swimming, and excellent fishing for smallmouth bass, sunfish, catfish and even walleyes.
The float from Lyle Park (off Highway 5 north of town) to the Cherry Gingles access (off I-30’s Exit 116) is about 3 miles, but if you fish the pools thoroughly, it’s a nice four- to five-hour trip with a short shuttle.
Also nearby is Benton’s Sunset Lake, off Interstate 30’s Exit 116. It sports a handicapped-accessible fishing pier and a walking trail providing bank-fishing access around the entire lake. (Info: Benton Chamber of Commerce)
The Diamond Lakes of Hot Springs
For hundreds of years, people have used the Spa City’s hot springs to relax and treat illnesses. Water still attracts visitors to this national park less than an hour’s drive west of Little Rock, but most come not for a therapeutic bath, but to enjoy the vacation paradise created by the area’s four “Diamond Lakes” – Catherine, Hamilton, Ouachita and DeGray.
Covering a combined 63,000 acres, these sparkling impoundments are a magnet for anglers and water-sports enthusiasts. All offer blue-ribbon fishing for bass, catfish, crappie, bream, stripers, white bass, walleyes and more.
Rent a houseboat, take a dinner-boat cruise, ride a waverunner or visit the state parks on Catherine, DeGray and Ouachita. The latter offers top-shelf bank fishing and swimming areas, full-service marinas with boat rentals, plus beautiful campgrounds, cabins and more. (Info: Hot Springs Convention and Visitor’s Bureau)
Greers Ferry Lake and the Little Red River
Nestled in the Ozarks near Heber Springs, about an hour and a half drive north of Little Rock, are two of Arkansas’ most storied fishing waters. The crystalline waters of 31,500-acre Greers Ferry Lake produced two current world records – a 22-pound, 11-ounce walleye and a 27-pound, 5-ounce hybrid striper. Just below Greers Ferry Dam, in the icy Little Red River, angler Rip Collins landed a 40-pound, 4-ounce world-record brown trout.
The lake and river harbor other sportfish as well, including largemouths, smallmouths, bream, crappie and catfish. Plus, in the river, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout. Hire a guide at one of the many resorts, fly fish on the shoals or fish from your own boat. You’ll find action no matter how you do it. Opportunities for swimming, camping, sailing, hiking, sightseeing, shopping and birding are plentiful as well. (Info: Greers Ferry Lake & Little Red River Tourism Association)
When it comes to catfishing, this 6,700-acre Game & Fish Commission lake, less than a half hour drive west of Little Rock on Interstate 40, ranks among the nation’s best. You can visit almost any month and expect to catch fish with whiskers and baby-smooth skin.
Bait your hook with a live sunfish and chances are good you’ll enjoy a battle with one of Conway’s abundant flatheads, ugly but delectable denizens often weighing 30 to 60 pounds. Big blue cats swim here, too, and 2- to 10-pound channel cats are as common as bluegills by a boat dock.
Conway also serves up a smorgasbord of fishing for other species, too. The lake is well known for producing trophy largemouths, pan-size bluegills, redear sunfish, and slab crappie to 3 pounds or more. Several public fishing piers around the lake provide great places to fish alone or with the family if you don’t have a boat. Or rent a johnboat at one of the local docks for better access to prime fishing locales. (Info: Arkansas Game & Fish Commission)
These are just a few of the many central-Arkansas waters popular with folks who love spending time on the water. Others within an hour’s drive of the Capital City include Lake Overcup at Morrilton, Beaverfork and Brewer lakes near Conway, Harris Brake Lake at Perryville, and lakes Sylvia and Winona in the Ouachita National Forest west of Little Rock. For additional information, visit (Info: Arkansas Tourism).